Kenyan campaigners urge for taxation on processed food to tame non-communicable diseases

  • World
  • Friday, 08 Dec 2023

NAIROBI, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- Kenya should impose heavier taxation on processed food, and limit their consumption to stem the growing crisis of non-communicable diseases including cancers, diabetes, and cardiovascular ailments, campaigners said Thursday.

The health campaigners who spoke at a briefing in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, stressed that taxation combined with public awareness is key to discouraging communities from consuming processed food heavy on fat, salt and sugar.

Catherine Karekezi, the executive director of the Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) Alliance Kenya, a health lobby, noted that these ailments were on the upsurge, fueled by urbanization, sedentary lifestyles and poor dietary habits.

According to Karekezi, NCDs were contributing to more than 50 percent of hospital admissions and about 40 percent of deaths in Kenya, besides undermining the quest to achieve universal health coverage.

Karekezi proposed fiscal incentives, public education and targeted regulations to promote the uptake of organic staples that are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, and contain NCDs.

"We can prevent NCDs by encouraging communities to turn to healthy diets, become physically active, clean their environment, stop harmful smoking and alcohol use," Karekezi said.

She suggested the government should invest in a resilient health system that prioritizes capacity building for medical workers, early diagnosis and holistic management of NCDs to minimize fatalities.

Anne Swakei, a program officer at the NCD Alliance Kenya, said Kenya has developed a national NCDs strategy, borrowed heavily from international best practices to help reduce caseload and deaths.

Swakei observed that front-of-pack labeling combined with policy incentives to promote the consumption of healthy diets and consumer education will be key to reducing the NCDs burden in the country.

"Increasing taxes on processed food and beverages, subsidizing the cost of healthy food including vegetables, fruits, nuts and whole grain will lessen the NCDs burden in our health system," Swakei said, calling for a hike in taxation for sweeteners, alcohol and tobacco products to reduce incidents of NCDs in the productive segment of the population.

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